Senior Muslim Brother Says Political Change in Arab World Could Result in a Unified International Muslim Brotherhood

Andrew McGregor

June 9, 2011

Having just returned to his native Egypt after 23 years of exile, prominent Muslim Brother Dr. Kamal al-Helbawi has spoken optimistically of the Brotherhood being able to take advantage of the momentous political shifts in the Arab world to form a united and international movement dedicated to the furtherance of moderate Sunni Islam in the political field. His remarks appeared in an interview with a pan-Arab daily (al-Sharq al-Awsat, June 1; June 5).

Dr. Kamal al-Helbawi

Al-Helbawi, who holds British citizenship, has studied in Pakistan, worked in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, and has pursued business activities while leading or playing a major role in a number of British-based institutions such as Center for the Study of Terrorism and the Global Civilizations Study Center. He has also been a prominent member of a number of British or international Muslim organizations while acting until recently as the Muslim Brotherhood’s spokesman in the West.

Al-Helbawi notes that the Muslim Brotherhood lacks any international organization at present, though he describes this as a “Brotherhood dream,” and one of the main goals of Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna (1906-1949). Efforts to increase international coordination have been stifled by pressure from security forces in Egypt, Syria, Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world, save for Jordan, where the movement is allowed to operate openly. However, al-Helbawi suggests that “after the revolution in Egypt, the revolutions in Libya, Tunisia, Syria and Bahrain, maybe matters could improve” and unification might be possible along the lines of “world socialism” or the “Zionist movement.” “They all listen [to] and obey one amir or one official despite the particularities of each of the different countries, according to their laws and so on.”

Emblem of the Muslim Brotherhood

Al-Helbawi emphasizes that the Brotherhood does not seek confrontation with any regime, though unlike the Salafists, it sees a role in politics for Islam:

The “Brotherhood” does not agree with the saying: “What belongs to Caesar belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God belongs to God.” It believes that everything belongs to God. Therefore, [former Egyptian president] al-Sadat’s saying that “there is no religion in politics and there is no politics in religion” is ridiculous. The “Brotherhood” does not believe this. The call must continue because it is an order from God. There is also a need to participate in political action. The advantage that the “Brotherhood” sees in political action is that its members have been raised in a certain way and they have built a cultural, ideological, and jurisprudential structure that makes them different from those who have not received this education or training in the political field. This is something that is an asset to the people and the nation…

Al-Helbawi is the author of a number of Arabic language books on topics including “Global Strategies in the Afghan War,” “American Politics in the Middle East” and “The Role of Muslim Youth in Reconstruction.” He has also translated works by Imam al-Ghazali (1058-1111) and Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (a leading Muslim Brotherhood ideologue and religious scholar) into English.

In 2008, al-Helbawi organized a meeting between Shaykh al-Qaradawi and a group of rabbis belonging to Neturei Karta (lit. “Guardians of the City”), an anti-Zionist Orthodox Jewish movement. The group believes the founding of Israel transformed the Jewish movement into a Zionist nationalist movement, in violation of the Torah (al-Sharq al-Awsat, May 3, 2008). More recently, al-Helbawi accused Israel of foreign intervention in the Egyptian “February 25 Revolution” by destroying a gas pipeline in the hope Egypt’s revolutionaries would be accused of using explosives, discrediting their peaceful protests (al-Alam TV [Tehran], February 7).

This article first appeared in the June 9, 2011 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor